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Branding Yourself: Interview with Caleb Wojcik from Pocket Changed

It can be fun to listen to the success stories of people like Brian Clark, Leo Babauta, Darren Rowse, Guy Kawasaki, and others.

But it can also be a little bit frustrating, because they’re soooo far ahead of you, and what you really need is to hear from someone who did what you’re doing just a little while ago.

Enter Caleb. Caleb Wojcik, that is – from Pocket Changed.

Caleb started Pocket Changed just a few months ago, and he’s built a steadily growing blog with excellent design and great content. He’s building a brand from scratch – does that sound familiar? Do you want to brand yourself?

Well, we thought you might like to know how he did it…

Let’s start off with an introduction. What is Pocket Changed all about? Who is it for?

Pocket Changed is a blog that I write for anyone trying to learn more about personal finance, career development or improving their life. In the past three years since I graduated college I have moved across the country for work, saved enough money to get out of debt, found my underlying passions and simplified my life. I write to help people do the same kinds of things.

When people come to Pocket Changed I want them to see that there are other people all over the world that are in similar situations and that there is always hope for bettering themselves. Whether they are trying to get out of debt, switch careers or minimize their possessions, I am there to help with tips, action plans and motivation tactics.

My target audience is young adults between the ages of 18 and 30, but my articles can relate to people of all ages. Many of the topics I discuss are most relevant to young professionals or recent college graduates that are just learning about different aspects of the “real world” they were never taught about in school. I focus on reaching out to readers that are going through their own quarter-life crises, like the ones I have personally experienced.  I want to give them that extra push to listen to their hearts and follow their dreams.

Tell us about the fit between the brand and the audience. What sort of brand were you trying to create?

The brand that I was trying to create for Pocket Changed was initially just based on personal finance. I first wrote solely about ways to be frugal, how student loans work, etc. After about seven weeks of writing posts every single day around that kind of brand I realized that there are already great bloggers and writers that can be that resource for people that want to learn financial principles. I determined that I was most passionate about helping people become the most awesome possible version of themselves.

One day I realized that if I was going to be the one website and brand that people would come to rely on for giving their life a big push in the right direction then I needed to adjust my focus a bit. By writing about not only money, but also about careers and life principles I would have a more well-rounded focus. Finding my own voice allowed me to turn my brand into one of trust, community and motivation. To be the best you possibly can be, it takes dedication in all areas of your life, not just one, and that is why I write about different topics.

How does the design of your blog reflect that brand? Can you talk about some specific elements, and why you chose them?

The design of my blog shows the amount of passion that I have about the topics. I don’t think that anything that I write about should be taken too seriously. Talking about money, careers and lives can be fun and I relate that through my design. For example, I designed the title image, header and tagline to jump out at the reader. I want those to be the first things they notice when they visit the website and immediately understand what Pocket Changed is all about.

I also make sure my site is as easy to navigate as possible without any intrusive advertisements. I want visitors to find my content, read it and then want to read more. I don’t want to trick readers into clicking affiliate links or leaving my site. Whenever I spend time optimizing my layout I pretend like I am a first time visitor because I want the design of my blog to be free of frustration and have intuitive navigation.

What about content? How does your selection of content fit into your brand?

I don’t think that talking about money or personal development should be as dry or boring as some people think it is. My posts are filled with as much personality as possible through the images, stories, graphics and humor I inject. I chose to write as if I was sitting in a coffee shop talking with someone or a group of people about aspects of their lives that are really personal to them. By approaching my writing in this way, I can open up and write about my beliefs without sugar coating my thoughts for the reader. I think being honest, especially online, is the best way to communicate with anyone.

When I select content I always make sure that it would help someone during their young professional years. If I think of a great topic for a post but it doesn’t apply to my audience I don’t post it. By always putting my audience first, I can make sure I never lose touch with them. As my readership grows I will continue to interact with them and determine what else they want me to write about.

What is the biggest brand “mistake” you’ve made? What’s the story, and what did you learn from it?

I’d say the biggest branding mistake I made was taking so long to establish a brand. I delayed purchasing a premium theme and developing branding for my site for multiple weeks. I was so focused on publishing content everyday that I put branding on the backburner for far too long. Once I purchased a premium theme I then put off creating a logo, color scheme and other features for another few weeks!

I learned that a website needs to differentiate itself enough from others so that visitors have a reason to come back. By creating a brand around what you offer you are able to connect with the readers or customers immediately. People sometimes make a split second decision when they see your header logo or the layout of your home page whether or not they trust you and what you are trying to provide.

What’s the biggest takeaway that readers can get from your experience branding Pocket Changed?

The small business branding and marketing that you have been putting off for so long? Do it now. You are losing future visitors, customers and business by not having a brand that they can connect with. When you are able to create a brand around what you do it makes leveraging the customer connection into a conversion that much easier.

While I don’t recommend just spending all of your time on branding in the beginning, putting it off for too long can be detrimental to your growth. Once I created my logo, tweaked my layout and re-launched my website with the new branding my traffic grew substantially faster than it did before. Sure, not everything about my website was perfect right after the first round of designing it, but making my website stand out was a big step that I put off for far too long. If I did it all again I would focus more on the branding in the first few weeks to start off strong.